UAE telecom service provider du announced that some of its customers might face temporary slowness in broadband speeds during peak times because of multiple submarine cable cuts near Egypt on du partners' cable systems which occurred on January 23.
In a statement, du said it was prioritizing work to repair the affected systems, and would be in constant touch with the submarine cable system providers.
The company has taken all measures to re-route traffic through alternate cable systems to minimise impact, said a senior du official.
Figure 1 - EIG Cable Map
Source: EIG Consortium
However, on January 26, du said "As per the latest available information from the three affected submarine cable operators – EIG, FEA, and FALCON, repair work is currently underway in full swing and may take a longer timeframe to accomplish the full scope of the required work. We would like to assure our customers that we are working hand in hand with our partners around the clock to resolve the situation. We have proactively rerouted traffic through alternative paths and new cable paths are being added as needed to ensure a seamless browsing and connectivity experience for our customers".
According to Mohamed Arafa, Transmission Network Operation Specialist at Integrated Telecom Company (ITC) in Egypt via LinkedIn, "FALCON cut us between Oman and Dubai".
Figure 2 - FEA Cable Map
Practically at the same time, on January 21, SEACOM reported multiple cable faults, one in the UK and two in Egypt, which affected the services of its own cable and those of the West Africa Cable System (WACS), both of which connect South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa to the global Internet, as well as the MENA / Gulf Bridge International system. The SEACOM cable connects South Africa and countries along Africa’s eastern shoreline with continental Europe. The system also has a spur to India. WACS connects South Africa to Europe with branches into a number of West African markets. MENA connects Oman to Sicily via the Red Sea and Egypt.
Figure 3 - FALCON Cable Map
Source: Global Cloud Xchange
SEACOM confirmed that twin faults in Egypt, one on the (terrestrial) Northern Trans-Egypt route between Cairo and Alexandria and the other on the (terrestrial) Southern Trans-Egypt route on the outskirts of Cairo, knocked out its connectivity between Africa and Europe.
Figure 4 - SEACOM Cable Map
Both events were caused by civil construction activity and were not acts of sabotage.
“During the two hours and 40 minutes that SEACOM experienced a dual failure across Egypt, we were able to route Internet traffic through India,” the company explained.
“However, many operators in Africa use a basic transmission service that links directly to Europe and they use the west coast cable as a backup,” it said.
“With the west coast experiencing an outage (on WACS) at the same time, international connectivity at many of these service providers failed or was degraded while we worked to repair the faults in Egypt.”
It was coincidental that an outage on a terrestrial link in the UK, which connects the WACS landing station there with a data centre in London, led to downtime along that route. The fault affecting WACS was fixed on January 28, 2016.
SEACOM services between Africa and Europe went offline again on January 28 after fresh cable breaks in Egypt cut off African Internet users in East Africa and Southern Africa. In a statement timed at 9.45 a.m. South African time that day, SEACOM said it was experiencing a “critical outage” that meant its services had been unavailable since 8am South African time.
Figure 5 - WACS Cable Map
At 10.45 a.m. South African time, SEACOM reported that two cuts to cables in Egypt had been located and teams were on site repairing the cable. All services were restored at 12.08 p.m. the same day.
According to Ahmed Idris, Transmission Engineer at Telecom Egypt via LinkedIn, the cuts in Egyptian terrestrial cables caused Internet connectivity to drop by 74% in Gulf countries, and 100% in South Africa and several African countries for a few hours. All affected countries and carriers had to purchase short-term bandwidth connectivity at exorbitant rates to ameliorate the shortage. Internet providers in the Gulf limited access to YouTube and similar bandwidth-guzzling websites, and warned of increased latency in VoIP applications, such as Skype.
Adapted from : www.emirates247.com, www.tradearabia.com, www.khaleejtimes.com, www.techcentral.co.za, www.moneyweb.co.za, LinkedIn Submarine Cable Systems Group
This catalog of events highlights the ongoing vulnerability of significant markets around the world to damaged submarine cables. Historical data tends to suggest that a corresponding redundant path getting hit at the same time as the primary path occurs more often than one would expect. When this happens, some service providers, who have only paid for the one redundant route, get caught out.
As the LinkedIn Submarine Cable Systems Group point out, the impact of these outages will have been mitigated to a certain extent by caching. According to Doug Madory of Renesys, "These days, YouTube is almost entirely delivered through Google Global Cache (GGC) servers embedded within an ISP's network. A submarine cable cut shouldn't really affect YouTube."
Christian Frhr. von der Ropp said, "Not only do ISPs in the Gulf States probably run GGC servers but according to https://peering.google.com/about/delivery_ecosystem.html, Google runs so-called "Edge Points of Presence" (huge server clusters mirroring content globally) in Fujairah, UAE and in Muscat, Oman which I'm sure have multiple redundant upstream links for cache-filling of which some completely avoid Egypt. So unless ISPs refuse to peer locally with Google (which would be extremely unreasonable given the high pricing for international capacity in the region), I don't see how cable cuts in Egypt could affect YouTube or other Google services for eyeballs in the Gulf States."
According to Mohamed Arafa, GCX used its alternative routes inside Egypt to restore the FEA cable cut, explaining that "there are two fiber pairs on different terrestrial routes belonging to GCX passing from Suez to Alexandria." These circuits were used to restore some FEA circuits, bypassing the submarine cable fault between Port Said and Alexandria.
Alternative routes from the Gulf to Europe include:
b. Iraq-Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Caucasus Cable System (Black Sea)-Bulgaria
c. Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Caucasus Cable System (Black Sea)-Bulgaria
There are multiple geographically redundant routes owned by Turk Telekom and Superonline / Turkcell going to the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and Iraq. GBI indicates this route on their network map: http://www.gbiinc.com/SitePages/International_Connectivity.aspx but it is questionable whether this route has ever been utilized.
Julian Rawle, Author
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